Like the majority of the population, my love for the first Pirates of the Caribbean film dissipated quickly with the subsequent sequels, a mash of waterlogged mythology cut with the mannered kookiness that torpedoed Johnny Depp’s career.
So I approached the fifth installment—Dead Men Tell No Tales—with sheer dread. Prior to the screening, I nervously ate a 2,000 calorie cheeseburger, fries, large soda, and a 150 mg OG Kush brownie.
A normal person ingests 10-20 mg of edible marijuana in a sitting. But normal people also don’t watch groups of cartoony sea criminals search for the trident of a sea god to defeat an army of unstoppable soldiers made of ash—which is literally the plot of this movie.
Beef and THC rocketing through my intestines, I had no choice but to give Dead Men any doubt’s benefit. And I am happy to report that the latest entry in this improbably popular franchise is an absorbing exercise in blockbuster craft.
My enjoyment was absolutely underlined by the cocktail of substances coursing in my blood. The advantage of watching a movie after ingesting THC is that one becomes exponentially higher with each passing minute. When I found myself counting the freckles on ingénue Kaya Scodelario’s face, I knew then that the fragrant, mind-bending edible had consumed me.
Taking place almost entirely at sea, Dead Men drops the complicated vamping and self-important backstories, amping up the fantastic baroque imagery—a slithering Javier Bardem oozing black goop through his teeth, a sentient figurehead detaching itself from a ship’s prow to attack foes, a massive ocean parting Moses-like as boats skirt its wavecrest.
Much of the movie’s humdrum excellence is due to Norwegian directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, whose previous Kon-Tiki grounded its seafaring adventure with real human drama. They get Depp to drop the shtick and play a real character, wisely sidelining him to a supporting role. The dialogue bits are just as insufferably unfunny as ever, but the film’s steady stream of clearly-shot nautical surrealism steamrolls any memory of these clunky scenes.
I missed about ten minutes in the middle. The churn of the OG Kush brownie sent me straight to the toilet, where I unexpectedly dropped a struggling Kraken. So as the credits of Dead Men rolled, my stomach might have been empty—but my eyes were certainly full.